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Maria Wagner on how the gaming industry can lead the change for sustainability

General Manager of GamesForest.Club talks to us about climate change, and her childhood in Kazakhstan
Maria Wagner on how the gaming industry can lead the change for sustainability

Here at we celebrate diversity of all kinds. Speaking to various inspiring women at our Pocket Gamer Connectsevents around the world, and being aware that there is still a real need to shout about the subject, we decided to focus on females for December. In this series of features we will interview various women working in gaming, as well as sharing other stories around the subject.

Maria Wagner founded the GamesForest.Club about a year ago along with Georg Broxtermann, a non-profit company, based in Berlin (Germany), which supports the Games- and Creative Industries to actively invest in carbon absorption via planting and protecting forests. 

Maria Wagner

Maria Wagner

Co-founder of GamesForest.Club Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role?

I am a co-founder and general manager of the GamesForest.Club, a Berlin-based nonprofit that supports the gaming industry in investing into forest restoration to tackle climate change. My dream is to build a community of leaders who are empowered to reduce environmental impact by doing what they love - developing and playing games.

Our mission is to get together and playfully conquer the challenges of climate change by growing and protecting forests. We are open to companies, e-sport teams, developers, event organisers and help them plant new trees, protect existing forests or even buy CO2 credits. Together with 50+ members such as Goodgame Studios, CD Projekt Red, Miniclip, Sandbox and others, we support 15 forest projects around the world. Among them are WWF, WeForest, Sugi, Gula Gula, Rewilding Sweden, Wilderness International and others.

Games.ForestClub members have so far protected nearly 1.4M square metres of forest and planted 73K+ trees. All restoration activities in real life are shown as digital twins on our website, the games forest. We also provide a communication package to all the members and branded widgets which companies can put on their website.

The gaming community consists of over 3 billion people, so our products help raise climate change awareness among individual gamers and encourage sustainable behaviour. I deeply believe that we can be the first industry to exercise the way of change.

What first attracted you to the gaming industry?

As well as the global aspect of the gaming industry, I really love open and creative minds. Having worked in many different industries, I've never felt so at home. I am passionate about games, their stories and cultural aspects that bring people together and set trends without boundaries. There is no doubt that games can influence people's behaviour, style, and culture.

What effect do you think the culture within which you grew up has had an influence on your career path?

Interdependence between markets, policies, and social events has always fascinated me. I was born in Kazakhstan, a very multicultural setting. With more than 130 ethnicities, it is one of the most diverse countries in the world with a huge prosperity gap and environmental problems. When I moved to Germany in the 1990s, I was surprised at how wealth inequality was lower than in Kazakhstan.This made me look for a surrounding where equality and intercultural settings mattered. That's why I love to be part of the games industry, which has the power to build cross-cultural communities and solve global problems like climate change.

What challenges have you had to face during your career - thinking specifically about being a female in the industry?

As I loved maths, physics and political science, which at that time were male dominated, I was used to an appropriate environment. And as I was growing up with an elder brother and a mum, who was a doctor and quite independent, I was lucky to learn how to speak up for myself. Sometimes I had to stand up for myself, but it never felt like an extra challenge in terms of gender.

What advice would you give to companies looking to improve equality within the workplace?

From my perspective companies should really take care of their employees and give them the opportunity to express themselves. Creating an environment that allows employees to reach their full potential is essential. I believe that empowered people are less likely to act inappropriate and more importantly are less likely to accept inappropriate behaviour.

And what advice would you give to other women joining the industry?

It wouldn't be so much about gender. I would advise getting to know people and having fun while doing it. People in the gaming industry are fascinating. I have never seen so much creativity in one spot.

Who inspires you the most (not necessarily from within games)?

I don’t have one specific person on my mind. People in general inspire me when they talk about their passions. It's always inspiring when people see things differently than I do. When basically a world opens up to them and they are able to communicate it and I am able to see what they're seeing. The good thing is that I meet many people within the video games industry, who are setting this kind of spark in me.

Since you entered the games industry, what is the biggest change you’ve seen and is this for better or worse?

The biggest change is the web3 movement because it changed the approach to games. But what matters to me the most is that more and more companies are getting engaged in environmental actions and the carbon offset market is booming. Future revenues will be driven by this topic as it is crucial to hiring and retaining senior employees. It also becomes more important in terms of raising investments and branding. Engaging in climate action, sustainable business practices, investing in nature restoration are slowly but surely getting more popular. I'm looking forward to seeing more change and am happy to support companies that want to do more for the environment.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?

I'd like to see all gaming companies spend at least 5% of their revenue on fighting climate change and raise awareness of their communities to be part of a more sustainable future. In the long run, it will also increase their revenue and reduce climate change's effects.